Daniel Miller

Cutting the Big Five

I Cut the ‘Big Five’ Tech Giants From My Life. It Was Hell–Week 6: Blocking Them All.

Kashmir Hill from Gizmodo has done a series about blocking the “Big Five” tech giants. Here’s the video for the final installment, where she blocked all five at once.

Here is the playlist of all the videos.

The part of the video and the article that I find most interesting is the interview with Daniel Kahn Gillmor from the ACLU:

“My main concern is people being able to lead autonomous healthy lives that they have control over”

“We need to think of this as a collective action problem similar to how we think about the environment”

Kashmir observes:

The Amazon block continues to be the most challenging one for me.

Because a large percentage of the sites and services we use are hosted on AWS.

But:

…there seems to be a heightened awareness these days of the dystopia created by the tech giants.

I think that’s the word for it. Dystopia. And I think it will take collective action. Here’s another not-hyperbolic one: Panopticon.

A new book about “surveillance capitalism” by Harvard Business School professor Shoshana Zuboff argues that the extreme mining and manipulation of our data for profit is making an inescapable panopticon the driver of our economy.

And this heartbreaking bit:

I see a tweet from a video producer at the Washington Post who got bombarded with baby ads after she had a stillborn delivery.

“Please, Tech Companies, I implore you: If your algorithms are smart enough to realize that I was pregnant, or that I’ve given birth, then surely they can be smart enough to realize that my baby died, and advertise to me accordingly–or maybe, just maybe, not at all,” she wrote in yet another reminder that privacy invasions have real harms.

This, of course, reminds me of my own post, The Infinitely Connected Triggers of Her Memory and the Dumb Machines of the Technopathocracy, which I wrote eight years ago and was picked up by NPR at the time (but has since become a dead link).

I quit Facebook and Twitter (I still have a “fake” Facebook account in order to do my job, and Minecraft U still has a Twitter account I administer) three years ago. I’m now on Mastodon, almost out of principle–I don’t really care about the content or the interactions, I just want an alternative to exist for those who do. I have felt very little pain–sure, I lost touch with some people, but they were people I wasn’t in touch with prior to using Facebook. Every seemingly meaningful interaction facilitated by these social networks turned out to be not so meaningful. I wrote about this as well. In fact, my favorite alternative to social networks I didn’t mention in that post: I have a Trello board (called “Networking”…I need a better name) with cards for each person I want to keep in touch with, and I cycle through them, emailing, texting, calling, and setting up coffee meetings.

But I still use Gmail and Google Calendar, Chrome, Apple computers, an Android phone, YouTube…the list goes on, and the list of services I use hosted on either AWS or Google Cloud is probably too long to even begin to compile.

And no one I know who doesn’t work in technology is even thinking about this kind of thing.


PS: This tweet somehow communicates the absurdity of this world we’ve found ourselves in:

Dear Mr Bezos, I’m just gonna leave this here…

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